Amnesia – A type of memory loss

Introduction: Amnesia

Every one of us tend to forget things in our daily life. It might be our tasks that we decide to do, faces of people and many of our other decisions. While it is normal in most of us, the severity in forgetfulness is called Amnesia. Read to know more about its symptoms, treatment, diagnosis and preventive measures.


Amnesia is a condition where a person’s brain does not have an ability to recall the facts or retain past memories. As people age it is normal to have mild loss of memory but notable difficulty in making new memories indicates the presence of Amnestic disorder. Amnesia is a form of memory loss. Few people with amnesia face struggle in establishing new memories. Others can’t recall facts or past experiences. Amnesia affected people usually preserve knowledge of motor skills as well as their own identity. Significant loss of memory or difficulty to form new memories indicate presence of amnestic disorder while mild memory loss is a typical part of aging.

Amnesia Symptoms:

1.Main two features are

  1. Retrograde amnesia Having difficulty in remembering prior known information and past events.
  2. Anterograde amnesia Facing difficulty in acquiring new knowledge following the outset of amnestic disorder.

2.Majority of people with amnesia faced issues with short-term memory. They are likely to lose the recent memories while they can remember the intensely implanted memories might be spared. Some people only remember things before a certain time and nothing after it like the current president, the date and what they had for breakfast.

3.Another usual symptom is a sequence of forgetfulness of MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment) but its cognitive problems and memory loss is not as worse as dementia.

Memory loss and noticeable cognitive problems leading to deteriorating daily function are included in dementia. A person’s intelligence, attention span, identity, awareness, personality, judgment, attention span or general knowledge is affected in isolated loss of memory. Amnestic disorder having people have an ability to acquire skills like riding a bike or playing a piano and can normally understand spoken and written words. They might also recognize that they have a disorder of memory loss but amnesia is not as same dementia.
Causes of amnesia have different signs and symptoms like confabulation (false memories) either invented aesthetic memories which were misplaced in time and confusion

Amnesia types

1. Transient global amnesia

It is a condition that is poorly inferred or understood and developing it people experience recurring confusion over an interval of several hours. It shows loss of memory in the several hours prior to the attack and they will not have the memory lasting in their brain. It mostly occurs in older adults and middle-aged. Scientists conclude that this is due to short stoppage of blood vessels that supply to brain.

2. Anterograde amnesia

In this condition the person cannot make new memories and it is a temporary effect. It is experienced when hippocampus of their brain is damaged resulting from excess alcohol consumption. Anterograde amnesia is also permanent as hippocampus is important for formation of new memories.

3. Retrograde amnesia

From this condition you lose previous and already existing memories. This type of amnestic disorder first affects recently formed memories and then slowly affects the older memories. Gradual retrograde amnesia is caused by diseases like dementia.

4. Infantile amnesia

This phenomenon is common and is called childhood amnesia or infantile amnesia since they can’t remember the first 3 to 5 years.

Causes of Amnesia:

Since many parts of the brain involves in normal memory functioning, any injury or disease to these parts influence the brain’s memory. Amnesia is resulted when brain structures like thalamus (lies deep in the center of the brain) and the hippocampal formations (located in the temporal lobe of the brain) that form the limbic system, that controls memories and emotions is damaged.
Neurological amnesia is caused by brain damage or injury. Its possible causes involve:

  1. Lack of necessary oxygen in the brain resulting from CO poisoning, heart attack or respiratory distress and Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome (Vitamin B1- thiamin deficiency) due to alcohol abuse in a long term. Stroke, Inflammation of brain resulting from viral infection like Herpes simplex virus and tumors in memory controlling centers
  2. Other forms of dementia and degenerative brain diseases.
  3. Sedatives and medications such as benzodiazepines.
  4. Head injuries resulting from sports or accidents lead to problems in remembering new data. When these injuries are mild they don’t cause permanent amnestic disorder dislike severe head injuries.
  5. Psychogenic (dissociative) amnesia is a rare type of dementia resulting from being a victim of trauma or emotional shock of violent crime. The affected person loses autobiographical data and individual memories.

Main leading sources to memory loss:

  1. Head injuries – Can damage brain leading to permanent memory issues. Memories of weeks, days or hours are disrupted prior and later to the injury
  2. Anoxia – A condition that results from oxygen level depletion of brain. The loss of memory is temporary if anoxia is not so serious to cause brain damage.
  3. Electroconvulsive therapy – When a person receives this therapy for depression they experience anterograde amnesia which resolves in less than two weeks and retrograde amnesia of months or weeks prior to treatment.
  4. Hippocampus’ damage – Hippocampus plays a vital role in categorizing, forming, recalling memory and is a part of limbic system and brain. Its cells are the brain’s energy-starving and delicate to anoxia and toxin threats.
  5. If functioning of hippocampus is reduced there will be difficulty in creating latest memories and if both halves of brain’s hippocampus is impaired they will progress complete anterograde amnesia.
  6. Dementia – The brain’s memory location depends on its age and in order to forget old memories the person must have extensive brain deterioration. This might result from different types of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. They first lose recent memories and retain older memories.
  7. Alcohol usage Short-term of anterograde amnesia is resulted from temporary alcoholism and long-term alcohol use causes Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome. The person will not be aware of losing their new memories.

See a doctor when someone you know has symptoms related to amnestic disorder as the affected person might not be able recognize the symptoms or the stage they are in to seek medical care. Anyone who encounters head injuries, confusion or loss of memory needs instant medical attention.

Diagnosis of Amnesia

Neurologist diagnosis amnesia in a patient. They start by interrogating based on various aspects of a patient’s memory loss and recognize the other symptoms. The patient’s caretaker or a family member is asked to help with the evaluation, as the patient may not be able to answer their questions because of amnesia which is loss of memory.
Cognitive tests are used by the doctor to examine the patient’s memory. They will use CT or MRI scan to check the signs of brain damage, conduct blood test to diagnose infections, nutritional deficiencies and other issues. Tests to check seizures might be conducted.

Treatment for Amnesia:

  1. The doctors will pay attention on the leading cause to the condition like alcohol use, depression and so on
  2. Amnesia or memory loss induced from chemicals like alcohol is resolved through detoxifying. Once the drug is prevented from use the patient’s memory problems will be corrected.
  3. Mild head trauma induced amnesia is usually resolved over time without treatment whereas amnesia from serious head injuries might not cure. Moreover, advancements occur within 6 to 9 months.
  4. Dementia induced amnesia is mostly not curable. However, the patient will be recommended with medications to improve learning and memory.
  5. Occupational therapy is recommended for patients with persistent loss of memory. This therapy helps the patients to acquire memory skills and new information. The therapist instructs the way to use the methods and memory aids to catalogue information making it easy to grasp.


Amnesia varies in acuteness and extent, and even mild amnesia has an effect on quality of life and daily activities eventually causing complications in social settings, at school and at work. It is impossible to bring back lost memories but people with serious memory issues have to be under inclusive care facility and supervision.

Prevention of amnesia:

It’s significant to take necessary steps to decrease chances of brain damage, since it’s the root cause of amnestic disorder. For example:

  1. Prevent immoderate usage of alcohol
  2. Don’t forget to wear a seat belt while driving and helmet while bicycling.
  3. Any infection in the body should be immediately treated to avoid the seriousness of its spread to the brain.
  4. Seek quick medical attention when you recognize any mentioned symptoms
  5. Seek immediate medical treatment if you have any symptoms that suggest a stroke or brain aneurysm, such as a severe headache or one-sided numbness or paralysis.


Do follow the preventive measures and take instant action by seeking medical attention if you find the related symptoms of amnesia among your known ones. “Mental health needs a great deal of attention and it needs to be faced and dealt with.”

Subin Joshua
Author: Hi there, my name is Subin Joshua, and I am a Medical student. I grew up in a family of teachers and know that being a social worker is my calling. My passion for helping others has been evident in my involvement in helping the poor and needy for the last three years. Through those experiences, I have learned to interact with a diverse group of people, which has increased my ability to relate to others.